Offending behaviour programmes
227. Offending behaviour (or cognitive skills) programmes
were introduced during the early 1990s. They aim to teach offenders
the process of consequential thinking in order to avoid patterns
of thinking which lead them to offend. The Prison Service offers
a broad range of programmes designed to challenge behaviour which
has contributed to a prisoner's criminality or is a factor which
may lead to further offending. The full range of Offending Behaviour
Programmes are set out in Annex XX. In 2002-03, prisoners in 108
establishments completed accredited offending behaviour programmes.
Details are given in the table below. Prisoners serving long sentences
are the main recipients of these programmes. In 2003-04, 3,645
long-term prisoners completed some type of offending behaviour
228. The findings of recent research into the effectiveness
of cognitive skills programmes in rehabilitating prisoners present
a somewhat confusing picture. The most recent evaluation of cognitive
skills programmes, published by the Home Office in 2003, found
no difference in the reconviction rates for prisoners who had
participated in either an Enhanced Thinking Skills or a Reasoning
and Rehabilitation programme between 1996 and 1998, and a matched
comparison group. 
This study was in marked contrast to an earlier Home Office study,
conducted in 2002, which showed a reduction in reconviction for
prisoners who had participated in a programme between 1994 and
229. A further Home Office study in 2003 assessed
reconviction outcomes for a prison-based sample of adult male
sexual offenders who had completed a specifically designed
treatment programme against a comparison group of similar offenders
who had not participated in the programme.
The former showed a statistically significant reduction in reconviction
for sexual and violent offences. Further, the study indicated
that although the programme focused explicitly on sexual offending,
violent offending also appeared to be reduced by programme participation.
230. The Home Office findings on offending behaviour
programmes indicate that the number of high-risk offenders attending
the programmes decreased over the three studies whilst the proportion
of medium-risk offenders increased. The proportion within the
low-risk group also increased, peaking in the second evaluation.
This suggests a shift in programme targeting over the course of
the large-scale implementation of these programmes within the
Prison Service in recent years.
231. The Director of Nacro, Mr Paul Cavadino, told
is that some of these
courses work some of the time for some people in some circumstances
if they are very well targeted, but simply to argue that if you
put a prisoner through an anger management course or a thinking
skills course, it will make any difference, is very questionable."
232. The "Measuring the Quality of Prison Life"
audit in 2002 has provided valuable data on prisoners' own perceptions
of offending behaviour programmes. Of those prisoners who had
participated in such behaviour programmes, 63.7% agreed that they
had "learned a lot" from them, 70.6% agreed that their
thinking had improved, and 62.4% believed that their chances of
"going straight" were better as a result of their having
attended the programmes.
233. We share the Government's disappointment
at the results of the most recent research into the impact of
offending behaviour programmes. We consider that the great expansion
in offending behaviour programmes since they were introduced in
the early 1990s, and the alteration in focus of whom they were
delivered to, have compromised programme delivery.
234. In our view, the results of the Home Office
research argue in favour of reducing the priority given to offending
behaviour programmes. They should continue to be offered as part
of the range of interventions for prisoners but fitted into a
much wider rehabilitation agenda. We welcome the Government's
plans to develop strategies to evaluate the effectiveness of current
programmes through reviews of (i) the targeting of programmes
and (ii) the approach to auditing the quality of delivery.
We recommend that a much more sophisticated selection process
be introduced to ensure that appropriate prisoners attend each
of the particular courses, and that providers of programmes be
carefully scrutinised on an ongoing basis to ensure satisfactory
and consistent high standards of delivery of the programmes across
the prison estate.
235. We consider that the current Prison Service
Key Performance Indicator for offending behaviour programmes is
misplaced, because it measures their success by the number of
courses run, rather than by outcomes. We recommend that the Prison
Service put in place ongoing monitoring programmes evaluating
outcomes in terms of completion rates and impact on reconviction
rates on an annual basis.
The Grendon model
236. A programme designed to address offending behaviour
of the most severe kind has been operating at HMP Grendon, near
Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, for over 40 years. Prisoners volunteer
to come to Grendon. The aim is to treat antisocial personality
disorders, or psychopathy. The prison contains five 'therapeutic
communities' with 40 or so prisoners resident in each, held in
Category B secure conditions. A therapeutic process has evolved
at Grendon based on regular meetings of each community and of
smaller, eight strong, groups within the communities. Residents
stay at Grendon for at least 18 months, so membership of the small
groups tends to be stable, and "conducive to genuine disclosure
and psychodynamic working through".
237. These group meetings are at the core of the
'Grendon system'. The Prison Service described the interaction
between prisoners in the groups as follows:
"Small groups go through historical exploration,
clarification and reconstruction; the sharing and cartharsis of
trauma in a situation where trust and genuine intimacy begins
to develop; interpretation and challenge of unconscious drives
and wishes, and the recognition of the re-enactment of previous
situations and difficulties. The work in groups is amplified by
the therapeutic community environment, providing each prisoner
with forty 'therapists'fellow prisoners who are able to
challenge and ferret out evasions and disassembling by the client
with tenacity and vigour that far surpasses what the facilitators
can musteras the prisoners say 'you can't con a con'."
238. We visited Grendon in February 2004 and were
impressed by what we saw and learnt. We held intensive discussions
with a group of about a dozen prisoners and explored with them
in detail how the therapeutic communities operate and heard graphic
accounts of how they as individuals had been challenged to address
their behaviour and personality problems.
239. In recent years there has been some anxiety
about the future of HMP Grendon. The Board of Visitors' report
for 2001-02 expressed "serious concern" about the detrimental
impact of funding constraints and staff shortages on the therapeutic
regime at Grendon, which the Board described as "a high quality,
clinically effective process of immense benefit to prisoners".
In March 2004 a prisoner at Grendon wrote to us, following our
visit, expressing concern about a possible erosion of the benefits
of the regime as a result of prisoners being sent to Grendon to
alleviate overcrowding elsewhere in the prison estate, even if
they had no interest in being involved with therapy. We raised
this matter with the Prisons Minister, Mr Paul Goggins MP. He
told us that:
"While every effort is made to maximise
the use of the estate in order to meet current population pressures,
it is not intended that this will be at the expense of the regime
In order to make full use of any capacity at
Grendon, I understand that the Governor has taken steps to instruct
staff to re-visit current waiting lists urgently. This is in order
to expedite the transfers of prisoners who are suitable for the
therapeutic regime offered by the establishment. Any increase
in the population of Grendon can be expected to consist of prisoners
who have indicated their willingness to co-operate with the regime,
and have been assessed as suitable for allocation there."
240. We endorse the view of the Prison Service
that HMP Grendon is "a model of good prison practice and
a leader in the treatment of severe personality-disordered offenders".
Although by its nature this model of treatment will only be suitable
for a minority of offenders, we consider it important that the
work done at Grendon should continue. We recommend that the Government
should commit itself to maintain and if possible increase the
present level of resourcing of Grendon and other therapeutic units.
We agree with the Minister that prisoners should only be sent
to Grendon if they are willing to benefit from that regime and
have been assessed as suitable for allocation there.
185 Home Office Research Findings 206 (2003) Back
Home Office Research Findings 161 (2002) Back
Home Office Research Findings 205 (2003) Back
Q 202 Back
Ev 293 Back
National Action Plan, p 35 Back
HMP Grendon and Springhill Board of Visitors Annual Report 2001-02,
p 2 Back
Evidence not printed Back
HMPS briefing for Committee visit (not printed) Back